Do you know your rights when it comes down to misconduct on board? Captain Lord Luke Hammond of M/Y Bella is back and this time with a monthly blog. Below, Luke discusses the importance of reading and understanding your work contract, and how to prevent being let go by knowing the dos and don’ts expected from your yacht.
The radio crackles…
Your name is called three times. Then the pitch of the captain’s voice changes, and his next words have you listening attentively.
“Can you pop to the bridge for a quick chat?” …. then total radio silence.
Your mind races and your heart starts beating faster.
You start to wonder ‘did I do something wrong?’.
This is the moment of reckoning. And if in fact, you have done something wrong, you might be getting yourself fired today! (just like on Below Deck).
Get familiar with your work contract:
Remember: Good news travels quickly, and bad news travels at lightning speed.
So, to circumvent your wonderful self having to head down to your cabin and pack your bags prematurely (if you are to be fired one day), what can and should you know in advance?
Let’s just start with the basics – you should know the terms of your work contract inside and out. I know it’s boring reading but you need to know where you stand on a legal basis.
Courtesy of some ruthless individuals scamming crew out of their funds, or working them like slaves, we now have a contract that is commonly used on yachts.
The work contract commonly used is called a ‘S.E.A‘ or a Seafarer’s Employment Agreement. Whilst this isn’t adopted by all yachts, there is no reason why it can’t be. It gives both the yacht and the crew an indication of how they are to perform and why.
Whilst it isn’t required to have a contract on all yachts, most issues can be avoided when all parties know where they stand, hence why having a contract before you start makes a world of difference.
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and consider what happens the first time a crew member messes up.
My go-to document, which you can download too, is the Code of Conduct for the merchant navy.
This rather dull piece of scripture outlines the dos and don’ts of letting someone go. I suggest downloading it and reading it at least once.
Whilst some offences are minor and don’t dictate immediate termination, the first level of punishment is usually a turning point for most people.
Minor infractions normally just require a quick chat to outline what’s being missed or what can be improved. If it was just an accident, no worries, we move on.
Crew member responsibility:
However, if the issue runs deeper, the onus isn’t so much on the Yacht, it’s really on the crew member to resolve it. This concept might seem a little random, but hear me out.
The culture on the yacht will vary between happy and stressed depending on the crew dynamic. Whilst there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, crew morale is key. Now if you find yourself not enjoying where you are, it’s your responsibility to step up and change. It’s your responsibility to put in for a resignation. A common scenario is of a grumpy crew member bringing down the morale of the rest of the crew, and then that crew member inevitably gets let go for some reason, and the crew dynamic comes back to life.
Now for misconduct that requires immediate action, you are typically going to be let go then and there. You will be asked to pack your bags and depart the yacht within the hour.
The onus is on the yacht to repatriate you back home, however, there are going to be circumstances where you will be charged for that flight (it can be deducted from your pay).
Become an asset, not a burden:
There is a multitude of infractions and instances for termination, so you must understand where and why it might happen. This is the defining moment between an average crew member and a great one. When you make yourself knowledgeable you become a better seafarer and also a great asset to the industry and your peers.
So whilst terminations happen all the time, no two are ever the same.
If you have been let go without cause, or have been let go without compensation, I’d love to hear your experiences, as I think we all learn from each other when it comes to things like this.
Yachting is very much hands-on, and you should be learning something new daily.
“Be knowledgeable, be humble, but most importantly, have fun!”
Captain Lord Luke Hammond recently launched Reffr – A new yacht crew recruitment platform. Reffr aims to solve the problem of connecting people with the right jobs, which opens up amazing opportunities for recruiters, captains, and businesses that join the platform.